Palestinian family mourns third son killed by Israel army

2015-07-15 08:25
The mother of Palestinian youth Mohammad Kasba  sits with a necklace bearing a picture of him at their home in the Qalandia refugee camp near the West Bank city of Ramallah. (Abbas Momani, AFP)

The mother of Palestinian youth Mohammad Kasba sits with a necklace bearing a picture of him at their home in the Qalandia refugee camp near the West Bank city of Ramallah. (Abbas Momani, AFP)

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Qalandia refugee camp - For more than a decade, the Kasba family has displayed a banner depicting brothers Samer and Yasser, shot dead by Israeli troops during the second Palestinian intifada aged 15 and 11.

Ten days ago, Fatima and Sami Kasba added the picture of a new "martyr", 17-year-old Mohammed, their third son to die by Israeli army gunfire.

The incident that led to his death has sparked controversy in Israel and anger among Palestinians, with video footage made public challenging the army's initial version of events.

An officer shot Kasba dead on July 3 after he threw stones at an army vehicle close to the Qalandia checkpoint in the occupied West Bank, on the third Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The army, which has opened an investigation, said after the shooting that Kasba posed an "imminent danger" to soldiers.

The Israeli NGO that released the video says an officer shot him after he ran away from troops and left him to die without medical treatment.

There are conflicting accounts, but for the family the result is still the same -- a third dead son.

"Every day there is a martyr, not just in our family, but for all Palestinian families," Sami Kasba said.

"Someone is hurt, someone is killed, someone is arrested. This is what happens, that's the occupation," he told AFP, recalling the moment he found out his son had been shot.

"The doctor called me and told me: 'Your son has been killed'."

'Why did they kill him?'

Mohammed's brothers died when he was just a toddler.

Hurling rocks

Yasser was killed by army gunfire in 2001, a year after the second intifada [uprising] broke out, during fierce clashes at Qalandia checkpoint. He was only 11.

Samer, aged 15, died a year later from a bullet fired by a soldier in Ramallah near the Palestinian presidential compound.

"When his brother [Yasser] died, he [Mohammed] was only three-and-a-half years old," said Fatima.

"Even if Mohammed was really a terrorist like they say, then why didn't they arrest him or shoot him in the legs? Why did they kill him?"

The army said in a statement that Kasba was "hurling rocks at close range and, in response to the imminent danger, the forces fired towards the suspect".

But Israeli rights group B'Tselem challenged the military's version, drawing on CCTV footage, witness testimony and forensic evidence to conclude that he was shot in the back at close range after throwing a stone then running away from troops.

The CCTV footage apparently of the lead-up to the shooting shows a person running towards a military jeep and throwing a stone at its windscreen.

The vehicle stops, two men emerge and run out of frame in pursuit of the stone thrower.

Colonel Israel Shomer shot Kasba twice in the back and once in the side of the face, B'Tselem said, calling the killing "unjustified and unlawful".

It insisted that the military's version of events was flawed, notably the claim that he "posed a mortal threat to the soldiers at the time of the shooting".

'An execution'

"Military open-fire regulations permit shooting at the legs of a suspect in order to facilitate his arrest. They do not permit killing him by firing three shots at his upper body," B'Tselem said.

Colonel Shomer quickly received the support of senior Israeli army officials and the approval of cabinet ministers, who said he acted proportionally and in self-defence.

But for Fatima Kasba, her son's killing was "an execution".

After the B'Tselem report, the army refused to comment beyond stating that the incident was being examined by military police.

Army legal adviser Lieutenant Colonel Sarit Shemer conceded to AFP that in the occupied Palestinian territories "there are mistakes".

"This is why the policy is that every Palestinian who dies, there is an interrogation [investigation] to check if there was a mistake," she said, but refused to comment on the specific case of Kasba.

Such investigations rarely result in soldiers who have killed Palestinians being held accountable, B'Tselem says.

Clashes between soldiers and Palestinian youths are a regular occurrence in the West Bank, with 14 Palestinians killed by the army so far in 2015 and more than 960 injured, according to the United Nations.

There have also been several gun and knife attacks by Palestinians on Israelis since the start of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Local activists say 52 Palestinians have been killed at Qalandia since the first intifada began in 1987.

Read more on:    palestine  |  israel  |  middle east peace

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